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Title: Performance, proficiency and language : exploring factors contributing to second-language students' excellence in mathematics
Authors: Sosibo, Zilungile 
Keywords: Mathematics -- Study and teaching -- Foreign speakers;English language -- Study and teaching -- Foreign speakers;Multicultural education
Issue Date: 2016
Publisher: International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE)
Source: Sosibo, Z. 2016. Performance, proficiency and language: exploring factors contributing to second-language students' excellence in mathematics, ISTE International Conference on Mathematics, Science and Technology Education 23-28 October 2016. Mopani Camp in Kruger National Park, Limpopo, South Africa: 177-185
Abstract: Literature suggests that teaching and learning mathematics through a second language (L2) is daunting. In South Africa, learning mathematics through English L2 is identified as the root cause of L2 students’ underperformance in this subject, partly because mathematics requires more specialized jargon that may not be available in L2 students’ home language. Nonetheless, some L2 students excel in mathematics and sometimes even outperform their English first-language counterparts. Yet little research explains this phenomenon. This qualitative case study investigated student teachers’ perceptions of factors contributing to their excellence in mathematics offered in undergraduate Bachelor of Education programmes in a South African university. The research question was: What do African L2 student teachers perceive as factors contributing to their excellence in mathematics? Data were collected through a questionnaire and interviews and triangulated with students’ academic records, followed by thematic data analysis. Participants included eleven African student teachers and three mathematics graduates. Participants’ views differed on the contribution of language to their excellence in mathematics. Some participants perceived human agency as vital to their excellence. These results provide a fresh, positive and different perspective on research in mathematics, as they illustrate that African students have unique within-individual capacities to excel in this subject.
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